Forty Weeks

There are volumes I could write about the last eight months—and still, so much I am only beginning to process. So, here’s the short of it:

Eight months ago, we celebrated. For the first time since we started trying, there were little plus signs on multiple pregnancy tests spread out on the bathroom vanity. Weeks passed, and just after the first ultrasound, we learned of a cyst, which turned out to be cancer. One surgery, one less ovary, several rounds of chemotherapy, countless hours, days, weeks filled with worry and fear, and yet, here we are, full-term, at 40 weeks. What a triumph.

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For better or worse, Justin, Baby Fiona, and I journeyed through the winter, into the darkness together. I still have a long road ahead, but for now, we’re grateful and even hopeful—all the things we felt before the ground shifted and everything shattered. For the most part, I’ve kept quiet about this. It made sense to keep it close amid so much uncertainty. I have only ever used this account to share work, experiences, or small bits of daily life. Sharing the truth about the cancer diagnosis and my pregnancy felt like needless exposure at a time when I felt incredibly vulnerable and frightened. So, I retreated.

I share this now, however, because self-isolation has taken on new meaning for us. Although it often feels necessary for me to retreat in times of personal difficulty, this feels like a time to reach out, share, and connect. I had hoped that by the time I reached full term, I could emerge from self-preservation, to celebrate and welcome our daughter. Giving birth during a pandemic is not at all what I pictured, and yet here we all are, living through an unimaginable reality—in indefinite isolation.

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I don’t know what the effects of COVID-19 will have on my remaining cancer treatments or what the world will look like in the coming months. How do you reconcile the unbridled optimism of creating a life with the uncertainty of these times? I don’t yet know. Nothing about this experience materialized how I had hoped. Of course, no one ever dreams of a worst-case scenario. I imagine many feel untethered and anxious about their own lives at the moment. It’s hard to dream in dark places or find hope in the things we perceive as broken. But, cracks are how the light gets in, right?—at least, according to Leonard Cohen.

For us, the light has been community: family, friends, and even strangers, who have shown us immense support throughout this journey. Now, more than ever, I hope you all have a bit of light shining through the cracks.

Words & Muse. Venessa Rosely

Photographed by Sharon Schuster

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